Category Archives: Other Technology
For anyone interested in the world of technology in music education as it pertains to ukulele, I was given the opportunity to review the Populele, an acoustic ukulele with an LED fretboard that connects via Bluetooth to a mobile app (iOS or Android). That review is on my ukulele blog (link).
This afternoon, I attended my final ukulele jam of the summer (we go back to school as teachers next week and begin with students after Labor Day). We hold our jams at local music stores, and I noticed a box on the floor behind the jam leader. After the session, I went to look at the box, and it was a Music Pad Pro! I’m assuming that it was new, although the box was a little worse for the wear.
If you don’t know about this device, it was a predecessor to the iPad–a very low powered Windows tablet that only ran one piece of software…the Music Pad Pro software. We purchased two of these for our new high schools that opened in 2009, one like this one for choir, and a super-sized one for band. This model was $899 when new. I did not ask what the current price was from the music store.
When the iPad was released in 2010, a few months after the high school opened, it became clear that the Music Pad Pro wasn’t the future, and I was able to sell the device (following school district policies). As far as I know, the band’s unit is still at the school! Here it is…
And here are the specifications from the box…
There were some features head of its time, such as a big screen (12.1″ diagonal), touch screen, rechargeable battery, and USB ports. Other specs are pretty funny years later…64MB of installed memory, and 64MB of RAM. In comparison, my iPad Pro has 2GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Check out these ports on the bottom (and mounting points for a not-included stand mount):
Other information from the back cover (click to enlarge)…
I had my new iPad Pro (12.9)” with me, so I took some pictures…I need to clean the screen (apologies). I didn’t expect to be taking pictures of it today. The Music Pad Pro was just under 5 pounds. My iPad Pro, in its rubberized case is 2 pounds 8.6 ounces (also with the Apple Pencil attached to the case).
When I talk about the iPad and its disruptive force in technology–as well as the iPad’s excellent function as a music reader, I often mention the iPad Pro, and most people had never seen one. Now I have some comparison pictures to show people so they can see what I was talking about. As of August 2017, these are still selling on eBay for $175-$800…I don’t know why you would ever want one when you can now buy a used or refurbished 12.9″ iPad Pro…and the iPad Pro can run any number of apps, not just a music reader.
On our podcast Paul Shimmons and I were discussing the ability to speed up or slow down videos, protecting pitch while doing so. Paul let me know that this was not possible on mobile YouTube. So what is an iPhone or iPad user supposed to do?
The answer comes from another of my "key" apps, iCab Mobile, which is a $2 browser. I don't want to talk about this on the open web (e-mail me) but there is a single feature that iCab Mobile is instantly worth $2 for. The ability to adjust speed is a bonus.
While watching a video in YouTube IN iCab Mobile (you may need to delete the official YouTube app), touch the "puzzle" icon (modules). Go to the Video Playback Rate module. Choose your video rate. It works perfectly in YouTube, but does not work when a video is embedded in a website (Open the video in YouTube). And if a video is downloaded in iCab Mobile, the Video Playback Rate feature also works.
I have not been able to get the module to work with other services, such as Vimeo.
Considering that YouTube does not allow for this feature on mobile devices, this is a wonderful tool, and a way to get desktop functionality on your mobile device.
I am starting to work on a wickedly hard ukulele play along (I'm not saying what it is yet), and I realize that even the best players are going to need to stop and take a look at some of the chord before being successful. Most elementary programs will not be able to tackle this song (on ukulele), but that's okay…their teacher can play it, or a few of the ukulele superstars can work on it at home.
But here's the question: how can you slow down a YouTube video and maintain the pitch? Or, how can you speed up a YouTube video and maintain the pitch?
You can save a video, open it in iMovie, and alter the speed, saving the pitch.
But if you don't want to do all that…YouTube has speed controls with "preserve pitch" built in. Perhaps you knew that already. I did not. I figure that if I don't know something, there is a chance that others do not as well.
As a warning, this would mean that you would need to open the video in YouTube, having internet access, and you may want to prepare ahead of time with a service such as safeyoutube.net that does not show all of the other YouTube "clutter." (And yes, your class will react if they see something on a video sidebar that isn't appropriate). In fact, it might be smart to share ALL YouTube links as safeyoutube.net links in school settings (regardless of the age of the student).
How do you slow down or speed up a video (this also works on safeyoutube.net)?
Step 1: Click the "gear" in the lower right hand corner of the screen.
Step 2: Choose the "Speed Option"
Step 3: Choose the speed of your choice
Step 4: Restart the video (movie the Play head back to the beginning…don't reload the website)
Can you believe how easy that is? A few of the music teachers that have been making these videos have been doing so with multiple speed formats, which may be helpful if they are trying to download the files locally to use in a presentation (See note below). However…every person watching a YouTube video can take advantage of this feature for any reason. I can see a number of musical reasons to use this feature–ukulele just brought it to my attention.
Note: I always encourage presenters, such as at music conventions, to make sure that all of their media is on their device and embedded in a presentation. Never rely on wi-fi at a convention–you have been warned!
This post will also be available on ukestuff.info
As with most music educators, the end of the school year, following the last concert, is an easier time of the year. Not with classroom management, perhaps, but that was particularly true for me this year. Instead of trying to find worthwhile activities for the last days, we went back to ukuleles and played through various songs. This worked tremendously well.
Brian Ellison, a middle school Band and general music teacher, recently posted this tweet about using ukuleles…
Ultimately, this is what it is all about. I have up to 60 students at a time on ukulele…but the involvement is the same. And the bonus is that KIDS SING ALONG. Watch the video again if you need to…you will see it. Robin Giebelhausen (https://soundeducators.org) talks about the power of fooling middle school students into singing.
Some people are even using these songs with adult ukulele jam sessions!
If you are going to use these…I suggest planning ahead, downloading the videos you want (www.keepvid.com, but don’t get fooled by the misleading download options) rather than relying on Wi-Fi in a presentation!
About copyright…YouTube notifies us that songs are under copyright, they cannot be monetized (not the goal anyway), and any advertisements you see generate income for the copyright holder. Only one song that I created (Faith! From “Sing”) was banned…and another educator created a version which is being allowed. Who knows.
I have made a few of these videos in the past…and have been trying different approaches in doing so.
Early on, I was trying to make scrolling “sheet music” with accompaniments made with iReal Pro and Notion. Later, I was using lyric videos from YouTube (see Dr. Reese’s “How To” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2n1Lb9TL9Q).
After our concert, I started making a few new songs and then just kept going. I made videos of songs that my choirs had sung. I made videos of songs that came to my attention that were fun (and sometimes challenging). Eventually, I stopped using lyric videos and made my own Keynotes of lyrics and chords.
I have been working with John Baxter from ukefarm.com to develop some ukulele chord resources for music education. Coming soon: Chordette for Education which is a program that allows you to use ukulele fonts in documents, keynotes, etc. You can even do this on an iPad! One of the fonts features colored strings to match the Aquila KIDS strings.
One of the challenges with ukulele is that many songs were written for ease of playing on a guitar. E is a great key for Guitar. It is a crummy key for ukulele. Therefore, a lot of songs need to be “tweaked” up or down a half step or a whole step to be more accessible on ukulele (more than that, and the original audio really starts to suffer). Sometimes the original key was OKAY, but a transposed key was more accessible. In those cases, I started making two versions of a play along.
Pretty soon, I had a bunch of songs going with my format, and if the song was easy, I could make a video in an hour. I had a new goal…make 30 unique videos (not counting multiple keys) in the month of June…one a day.
The songs have different purposes. Some are standard ukulele jam songs. One of the benefits of this approach to teaching ukulele is that you can teach kids with THEIR music. However, they should also learn some of the standard songs used in ukulele jams so they can play along with players in other places (and in other age groups). And as I said, some are songs that I like.
I wrapped that project up this evening with my 30th unique song of the month (June 22nd…ahead of schedule). There are some special things in the last 30 days, such as a GREAT song by the Jive Aces called “Bring Me Sunshine,” jeremy messersmith’s “Everybody Gets a Kitten,” “Another Day of Sun,” me singing on a version of “The More We Get Together,” and tonight a very special video using the Bacon Brother’s recent video of a ukulele song they sang on their tour bus (had to figure out all the chords for the song…and included the original video). The only dud, in my opinion, is Heart and Soul, but even that is okay…and it is interesting to hear the whole song…not just what kids play on the school piano all the time. As always, if something isn’t of interest to you, don’t spend much time with it.
So, Ukestuff Play Along Songs (some have been around longer than this month). The titles are clickable links to each of the songs I have created. In the future, this PDF will be in the “Videos” page and regularly updated. This version will remain static to 6/22/2017.
I also started another side project, which was to make an index of ALL the ukulele play along songs in this style…168 of them so far. I am going to share that index as soon as I share it with the creators first.
What other songs are needed? Religious and non-religious holiday music play alongs. And then any other songs that you might want created. Have a suggestion? E-mail me. If there is a YouTube video with the music, please reference that video–and of course, chord charts are useful, too.
I am not setting a goal of another 30 songs in July…but I will make some new videos…and there are some other projects that I want to get to.
Some might ask: aren’t you worn out from the year? The answer is YES, and I will blog about that later. That said, doing things like this renew my spirit and cause me to think deeper musically than I generally get a chance to do all year. I have also had a chance to spend time with my kids, play ukulele at a Veteran’s Home, and participate in some local ukulele jam sessions.
This video will be cross-posted on ukestuff.info